A fee on single-use plastic and paper bags has been scrapped by New York state lawmakers, who this week reached an agreement to halt the New York city 5-cent bag tax indefinitely.
The New York City policy was set to kick in on Feb. 15 at retail stores in the city, with retailers keeping the revenue from the fee.
Yesterday the state Assembly approved a bill to block the city’s bag fee. The state Senate passed the bill on Monday. It is now under review in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
If the governor signs it into law, the New York City Council could approve another bag fee in 2018.
Proponents of the the plastic bag fee argue it will encourage shoppers to carry reusable bags, and keep plastic bags out of landfills, the ocean and other sensitive environments.
The city’s sanitation department says New York City spends $12.5 million a year to dispose of single-use carryout bags in landfills and even more to clean them off beaches, parks and other public spaces.
But opponents said it would place an economic burden on city residents and businesses and increase health risks due to cross-contamination of food when reusable bags replace disposable bags.
In a press release Sen. Simcha Felder (D, Brooklyn), who led the effort to block the bag tax, said: “We all care about the environment and want to make a difference. How do we get there? By taking our state’s existing recycling law and enforcing it. We can even encourage good policy by giving New Yorkers incentives. But please stop punishing them. New Yorkers are sick of being over-fined, over-taxed and over-ticketed. They understand recycling. It’s the law, it’s the right thing to do, and everyone knows that except, apparently, Mayor de Blasio.”
In November California voters shot down a very expensive attempt to overturn its bag ban — the first statewide ban on single use plastic bag in the US. Plastic bag manufactures raised about $6.1 million to overturn the policy while its supporters, including Albertsons Safeway and the California Grocers Association, raised about $1.4 million to keep the fee in place.